A/N: Thank you twobrothers, Tree66, Max2013, Dinogal95, Guest, and SiouxAnne3 for your reviews!

Guest, in answer to your question, yeah, probably.

"Z" is for Zealous

Colby lost track of how long he'd been in isolation early on. At least he thought it was early on—the days never varied enough for him to pick out a pattern. Meals—breakfast and not-breakfast—were the only way to discern the passing of time. Or would be if they weren't so irregular he lost count.

It just proved he wasn't much of an investigator and maybe wasn't in the wrong place after all.

Franklin introduced him to the four guards who had jurisdiction over him early on and Colby hadn't seen him since. The guards were zealous in everything they did, especially in emulating the warden.

Colby impertinently called the three older ones Franklin's Color Guard. He thought he should really learn to keep his comments to himself, but they were Black, Green, and White. Green and White were ironically black, and Black was white. How could he not say something?

They were especially zealous in letting him know they didn't appreciate his smart mouth.

By the time they'd finished with him, he wasn't appreciating it either.

That left Olsen as the odd man out. Maybe that's why he was so short-tempered: he wanted to be in the Color Guard too.

The warden had told them to treat Colby as a terrorist, to think of his cell as a tiny Gitmo and to act accordingly. They were zealous in following those orders. The Color Guard loved this idea and the freedom it gave them. Olsen took it to a new level, to Colby's detriment.

Colby decided they deserved to be at Seymour … behind bars. They enacted their murderous impulses out on him without crossing that line—yet. Maybe taking their aggression out on him saved some innocent, protected some kid or woman out there from their cruelty. Then it was worth it. That thought got him through it. Colby wondered what they'd done before he came along. They couldn't have overseen the other prisoners in the same way, not without a big brouhaha when it came out. And it would've come out.

Not now though. There was no one to advocate for him, on the outside or inside, no one who cared what happened to him, no one and nothing to protect him. They were zealous in not allowing him access to an FBIAA rep, a lawyer, anyone who wasn't them or one of his interrogators.

They could do whatever they wanted to him since he was alone in the world. There was no one to hold them accountable. And they'd apparently decided that his only use—the whole point of his existence—was to give them pleasure.

Pleasure for them meant suffering for him.

He left his cell only for interrogations, and that had only happened twice since they moved him. He hadn't been outside or showered since that day.

He missed the sun. In here was the constant overhead light from the other side of the bars creating the changeless ambient lighting on his side.

He missed the wind, fresh air, trees, something new to see and smell and hear.

He thought he'd kiss the ground and give them whatever they wanted if they only took him outside, even if just to an enclosed dirt yard. Colby was glad they hadn't figured that out for themselves.

He'd give almost anything to shave. He was working on a patchy beard that itched like mad, and he wanted done with it. Showering consisted of them hosing him down in his cell with the nozzle set on what felt like pressure washing, thousands of tiny needles pelting his skin at once. They brought in an industrial fan like what Colby'd seen on the farms around Winchester growing up to dry him off. Mostly this worked as laundry too. For his two interrogations, they'd dumped half a box of baking soda on him, worked it in, and hosed him off. At least they gave him new scrubs afterwards.

Prisons were noisy and hot, at least that had been Colby's experience. He never saw another prisoner, never heard one, only his jailers and interrogators. In here, in this space he'd been confined in, was a coolness, the same consistent temperature he associated with caves and being underground. It wasn't a pleasant thought. He couldn't get warm enough. It wore on him.

So did thirst.

There wasn't a sink in his private hell, and he was always thirsty. Olsen and the Color Guard brought him bottled water but never enough.

They brought him meals once or twice a day or not at all. Every once in a while, he even got milk or coffee with his breakfast; once, it'd been both. He'd been absurdly happy that day.

He rarely saw Olsen and the Color Guard all together; rarer still only one. Colby put it down to their work schedules. It gave him no more clue to count the days or track the time than food service.

However long it'd been, Colby only knew he was thirsty, hungry, lonely, and had way too much time to think. He didn't know which he hated the most.

He worked out as much as he could, to try to get warm, to be ready for anything, to pass the time.

Olsen and the Color Guard had other ideas to assuage Colby's boredom. They asked him questions. They were as zealous in this as in everything else.

"Did you tell Kirkland about Sheila McHugh?"

"Who?" Surprise shocked an honest answer from him. He was disappointed in himself, but more mystified than anything. He'd been expecting questions about spying, triple agents, China, maybe Michael. Not some woman he didn't know. Although … the name sounded familiar….

They took away his prison-issue socks and sandals, leaving his feet bare and cold in his private hell.

They asked again.

He told them what they did to their mothers.

They took away his cot, leaving him both blankets and the pillow to camp out on the concrete floor.

They wanted to know everything he knew about Sheila McHugh.

He wanted to know how many homeless men they robbed to smell the way they did.

They strung him up and used him as a punching bag.

They demanded to know what he found out about McHugh.

He eschewed a witty comeback and settled on the old standby of go to hell.

They injected him with something that loosed a firestorm in his veins, but he had the last laugh: as much as it hurt, at least he could breathe and the pain wasn't as all-encompassing as Lancer's drugs. He reminded himself of that and stoically endured.

They told him it'd be easier on him if he gave them what they wanted.

But they'd already proven they didn't care about honesty, they just wanted him to say whatever they wanted to hear and would punish him for going off-script (probably for following it too; Colby didn't know, he refused to give them anything else) so he told them he wanted a cheeseburger, medium rare, with extra-crispy bacon, tomatoes, and pickles. Lots of pickles.

They stripped him of his orange DOC scrub top and t-shirt and strung him up again at a different set of handcuffs and whipped him with the buckle side of a belt. Or three.

They always returned his tee and scrubs when they were finished. Those were the only things they gave back.

He didn't know how long this had been going on for; could've been days, weeks, years, only hours. It was just another part of his life. Within a moment or two of their arrival at his cell, Colby could tell if this was another torture session or dropping off food and/or water or because they needed to vent their discontentment so came for some good old-fashioned harassing and bullying or if it was shower time, followed by an alphabet soup agency interrogation or just because he stank. Sometimes they didn't come at all.

He heard David in his head telling him not to piss off the crazy people holding him prisoner. Most of the time, David told him how worthless he was and how much he deserved this. Sometimes it was Don's voice, reminding him this was best for everyone, so Colby just had to suck it up and take it.

Ironically, even though his mind conjured up these conversations, it never actually put words in David's or Don's mouths. David never told him they were coming for him. Don never told him they wanted him. Neither of them said they missed him.

Colby stupidly missed them.

Maybe he only wanted a recess from the physical abuse and was willing to put up with the team's hatred and mind games for a little while. He didn't know. He knew he wasn't thinking too clearly, knew his defiance was the one thing left him. He couldn't honestly say it'd be any better if he stopped fighting Olsen and the Color Guard.

So he refused to yield and thought he really hadn't known how good he'd had it back in the FBI. The team never tasered or burned or drugged or beat him—they just wrecked his psyche and left his body for someone else to break.

He only hoped they didn't decide they wanted to do both. The last interrogation—if that barbarity could be called that—had been with the FBI. What if his former team decided to take a turn at him? He didn't know what he'd do. He was sure he'd shatter.

He didn't want to find out.


Colby sat on the pillow with his knees drawn up to his chest, bare feet on the little comfort the pillow provided, in the back corner of his cell opposite the porta-potty. He huddled under both blankets. His head hurt. They never targeted his head, seldom his face (they told him it was because the warden didn't want to damage his memory or mind, that he wanted Colby fully aware of anything and everything done to him), but he had a headache nonetheless. From lack of water, lack of food, lack of sleep. From pain. From the newest burns. From all of the above.

He briefly considered leaving his little pocket of warmth and fetching some toilet paper to wrap around his feet to alleviate the cold that had taken up residence in his bones there but thought better of it. The porta-potty had been surprisingly well stocked with the stuff, but he didn't want to take the chance they wouldn't bring him anymore when he ran out.

Besides, moving required far too much effort after his latest session with the Color Guard.

They had used lighters to heat the buckles on a couple of belts and proceeded to whip him with them when he failed to answer their questions about Sheila McHugh. Then they zealously plied a lighter over his back and ribs, blistering and even charring his skin. Green donned brass knuckles and punched one of those seared patches.

Colby had screamed for the first time in his captivity. He couldn't help it. His lips and inside of his mouth, his upper arms and shoulders, everywhere he could reach were all mangled from digging in his teeth to prevent crying out and there was no place left to bite.

Their faces had lit up at his expression of pain. They laughed at him, and Black sought to duplicate their victory. Colby only whimpered deep in his throat whatever Black tried. In truth, he didn't have the air for anything louder—Green's blow had bruised if not cracked at least one rib.

He was angry at himself for giving them that. He was afraid he'd give them a lot more the longer his incarceration went on.

He only saw one option available to him. Colby didn't like it, but it was looking more and more appealing as the endless, brutal days marched on (at least he hoped it'd been days and not mere hours; he hoped he wasn't that weak). He couldn't see another recourse, not amid an indefinite prison sentence.

He heard shuffling and jangling and looked out his bars disinterestedly. He thought he'd pass out if they started on him again so soon with their usual zealous abandon, and he looked forward to that relief. No matter how short lived. Maybe Olsen wanted some fun since he hadn't been here earlier.

But it was only Franklin, whistling merrily to himself. He was alone. He unlocked Colby's door, swung it open, and leaned against the doorjamb. He grinned sunnily. Colby wondered if maybe he wasn't a beer short of a 6-pack.

"I hear tell two weeks in isolation hasn't done anything for your attitude, boy. But I'm a patient man and as I told you before, we've got plenty of time."

Two weeks. It'd only been two weeks in solitary, three weeks total out of … how long, how long of a prison term? Colby despaired but refused to give it away. "Not nearly as much as you need."

He baited the warden because he was apparently incapable of shutting his mouth. It was going to get him in trouble one day; David had told him so, but he couldn't think of his former partner, his brother, couldn't let those feelings undo him now, not when he needed to at least act stronger than he was. Besides, seriously, how could he get into any worse trouble than he was already in? So, to hell with everything and everyone. Including common sense.

The warden's smile widened. "You're just like a fractious colt that needs to be broke. Or a dog that needs to learn its rightful place is at its master's feet." He took a deep breath, that smile never faltering, and added, "Activities I excel at."

"You and what army?"

It was a weak retaliation, and Colby knew it, but he hurt too much, and his head was in too dark of a place to come up with a clever retort.

Franklin chuckled indulgently. "You just need the right tools and have the right disposition to do the job, no matter how ugly it gets," he explained, as if Colby hadn't spoken. "Me? I have both. In fact, I've already started. I've taken your name from you, given you a new one. It's now the one on record; it's the only one you'll be called by. Except 'boy', of course, but that ain't no name. Whaddya say to that, Bright Eyes?"

Colby snorted. "Guess that makes you Zira."

"You may call me sir or master."

"Nah," Colby scoffed. He looked Franklin up and down, pretending to think about it, seething fury giving him a shot of energy. "You look more like a Bucky or Peewee. But … I think I'll just call you Nimrod."

"You better watch it, Bright Eyes." The smile disappeared, and the voice held a note of warning.

"What's the matter, Nimy? You can dish it out but can't take it?"

Franklin straightened to his full height, fingered the leather belt. "You shouldn't say such things, Bright Eyes. I really don't approve of a cur showing its teeth."

"Whaddya going to do?" Colby asked innocently. "Beat me? Oh, I know … you'll torture me. Hate to break it to you, Nimrod, but that's on the agenda pretty much every day. It lost its potency as incentive two weeks ago."

"I can make your life so much worse, boy," the warden growled.

Colby only had one option left, and he grabbed it with zealous intent. At least he'd leave no one behind to grieve, to wonder if it was accident or suicide, if they'd driven him to it. There'd be no escape, no rescue—the only people who once would've cared enough were the ones who put him here. He was on his own. There'd be no release—Olsen and the Color Guard wouldn't let their favorite plaything leave; Franklin wouldn't take the chance Colby'd take everything he knew about Sheila McHugh to … someone. The organization he once worked for wouldn't risk he'd go to the media and tell them all about his illegal detention and what went on during that time; it'd be a PR nightmare and shitstorm the FBI didn't need. Nor did the BOP for that matter. Likewise, even if he gave in, they couldn't just let him go. They could send him back to GP or down to Gitmo or leave him to waste away here; no one would ever know, or care. He'd never come up for parole or have time shaved off for good behavior—not when he'd never been sentenced in the first place. He was never getting out … they would never stop doing to him what they'd been doing. Only one thing remained.

Colby smiled ferally. "Bring it on. Nimy."